Six column beam engine, unsigned, British, 1820-1840, and used by JA & W Lyon, Bleachers, Leo Street, Peckham, to drive a set of drying rolls, 1836-1905.
This beam engine’s maker is unknown, which is surprising given the excellent quality of its design and manufacture, with overhead parallel motion, tank bed, and a wealth of fine cast iron detail. It is a beam engine, with the rocking beam conveying the movement of the piston to the crank and flywheel supported on six elegant columns. It was used by JA and W Lyon, who since 1836 were bleachers based at and around Leo Street, Peckham, south-east London. The engine shows the new potential of cast iron for creating machines which went beyond being functional to incorporating strong elements of decorative detail. How this should be done was worked through by many engineers during the early to mid 19th century, provoking considerable debate about the nature of mechanical design and the gradual emergence of a new engineering aesthetic along with the rise of mechanical engineering as a distinct profession in its own right.